Oregon science teachers have plenty of time to switch to ‘next generation’ science teaching

On October 24-26, more than 3,000 teachers convened in Portland, OR, for the NSTA regional conference and a popular topic of discussion was the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Keynote speaker Stephen Pruitt from Achieve addressed attendees with the message that teachers will have plenty of time before they are expected to teach to the new standards and that they should focus on learning more about the NGSS and how to adjust classroom instruction.

“Be patient,” Pruitt counseled. “Don’t think you can walk in and do all NGSS… Pick one element or a few and do them well. We don’t have high-stakes testing staring us down. So let’s focus on teaching and teachers….. Right now, worry about good science.”

Oregon has not yet adopted the NGSS but the Oregon Board of Education is expected to address the issue before the end of the school year.

Go here to read the full story in the Oregonian.


Kentucky: A Step Closer to Full Adoption of the NGSS

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are moving closer to full adoption in Kentucky despite legislative hick-ups along the way. Most recently, on Oct. 15, Kentucky’s Interim Joint Committee on Education decided not to address the issue of their adoption. According to WFPL radio in Louisville, the committee could have brought the issue forward—and still can until Nov. 1—but co-chair Derrick Graham is quoted as saying, “‘it’s a done deal’ and the standards have overwhelming support of the business and science communities.”

To recap, at its June 5, 2013, meeting the Kentucky Board of Education recommended the adoption of the NGSS as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science. Despite the recommendations from the Board and overwhelming public support, on Sept. 11, Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee voted 5-1 to find the standards deficient and did not adopt them. With lightning speed, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced plans to move forward and implement the standards. In a letter to Gov. Beshear, NSTA Executive Director Dr. David E. Evans congratulated Gov. Beshear for his outstanding support for the NGSS and for STEM education.

While Beshear’s actions allow implementation preparations to begin, legislators could override the governor when the General Assembly meets in January.

Read the Oct. 15 news article from WFPL radio.

Read NSTA’s letter of congratulations to Gov. Beshear

Read the Oct. 13 news article from Kentucky.com.

Washington State Poised to Adopt NGSS

According to the Seattle Times, Governor Jay Inslee and State Superintendent Randy Dorn are expected to announce today Washington state’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Washington will be the eighth state to adopt, behind Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, Vermont, California, and Delaware.

Click here to read Seattle Times news article.

ETS Convenes Experts to Address Assessment and NGSS

On Sept. 24–25, the Center for K–12 Assessment & Performance Management at ETS convened more than 250 science and assessment experts in Washington, D.C., to discuss the measurement challenges and opportunities posed by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and comparable, complex assessment expectations in science and engineering. NSTA Executive Director David Evans participated in the event and joined a panel discussion addressing implications of NGSS related to policy and practice.

Click here to view and download commissioned papers and view a webcast of two closing sessions.




Delaware Adopts NGSS; Business Leaders Rally Around CCSS

On Sept. 19, Delaware became the seventh state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, and leading business executives from key firms such as Intel, Cisco, and ExxonMobil Foundation met to urge colleagues to “take up the fight to defend Common Core State Standards [CCSS].” They outlined plans to promote the CCSS through a number of strategies, which include national advertising and outreach campaigns to parents and company employees.

Read more:

Alignment of Curriculum Resources in NGSS

By Ted Willard, Director of NGSS@NSTA

Many educators are familiar with the idea of backward design in curriculum planning. As educators begin thinking of how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, the architecture of the standards leads to questions about how to start. With NGSS, what to focus on depends in part on whether you are planning assessment or instruction.

The performance expectations provide direction to assessment developers of what students should be able to do at the end of instruction.  They are not designed to describe what students are doing during instruction.  Furthermore, for students to be able to successfully achieve a particular performance expectation, they will need to engage in several different practices to develop their understanding of a disciplinary core idea.

For example, consider the following performance expectation:

MS-ESS1-1. Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons. [Clarification Statement: Examples of models can be physical, graphical, or conceptual.]

This performance expectation was constructed with the following two disciplinary core ideas in mind:
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

  • Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models.

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

  • This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.

The performance expectation also is meant to guide assessment of the following practice:
Developing and Using Models

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.

  • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena

While NGSS based assessments of students will check their ability to develop a model, instruction should not be so limited. For students to learn what they need to know about the seasons, they will need to engage in multiple practices, not just the practice of developing and using models.  They will most likely need to ask questions, analyze data, construct explanation, etc.

That said, it is important that instruction subscribe to the vision behind the standard that students engage in scientific and engineering practices to develop and understanding of disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.

NSTA is developing a portal for teachers to share resources and part of the site will be curated.  In thinking through how this work will be done, we have been using the general rule that at a minimum, for a resource to be considered aligned to NGSS, it must address at least one disciplinary core idea AND one scientific and engineering practice.  However, that practice does not need to be the practice that is used in the performance expectation.

If a resource can’t be used to help students engage in a practice, it is hard for me to see how it could be considered aligned to NGSS.  Keep in mind that the overall list of practices is fairly wide-ranging.

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

So when planning instruction around NGSS pay attention to the Practices, Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts in the Foundation box.

Kentucky Governor Moves Forward with NGSS

KYgovNews reports  indicate Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear, will override a vote by the state’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee that voted 5-1 on September 11 to reject the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In a statement reported by the Courier-Journal, “Governor Beshear fully supports the science standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education and is disappointed that the … subcommittee did not approve them today.”

In a press release issued by Kentucky Education Commission Terry Holiday, more than 3,700 comments were received in favor of the standards, and less than two hundred opposed. In addition, 70 state and national groups have endorsed the NGSS, including NSTA.

Click here to read a news story by the Courier-Journal.

Click here to read the press release by Terry Holiday.

(Photo credit:  2011 AP file photo by Ed Reinke, published in Courier Journal)


California’s Decisions Show That NGSS Is State Driven

By Ted Willard, Director of NGSS@NSTA

The California State Board of Education unanimously adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) this week, making it the sixth state to do so. The decision not only represents a move forward for evidence-based science instruction but also highlights the control and flexibility individual states have in terms of the NGSS.

The NGSS was developed by states and was designed for states. Despite erroneous claims that NGSS (and the Common Core) are unfair mandates from the federal government. California was one of twenty-six states that oversaw the development of NGSS and they made decisions about its structure.

These lead states collectively made decisions about the overall scope and structure of the standards. For example, they agreed that while the standards should specify what students must learn each year in the elementary grades, states should have flexibility in what topics are studied each year in middle school and high school.

Some educators believe that students are best served when they study some life science, some Earth science, and some physical science each year. Such an approach allows simpler ideas in each discipline to be studied in earlier grades and more complex ideas in each discipline to be studied in later grades. Topics can be sequenced to build upon and one another over several grades. In addition, this approach presents students with the full variety of science every year.

Others believe that students are best served when they focus on a particular topic every year. as this allows students to see the coherence of ideas within that discipline. In addition, since teachers often have expertise in one discipline but not others, this approach makes it more likely that students are taught by someone with a deep conceptual understanding of the topic.

My point here isn’t about which of these approaches is best; both have their merits. Instead, I want to point out that the developers of NGSS recognized that these decisions are better left to the states. Appendix K of the standards provides model course maps for either of these configurations. More important, the appendix walks through the process of how the NGSS writers developed the model course maps so that states would have guidance about how to do the process themselves.

What does this have to do with California? The board deferred until November on deciding the sequencing of science topics in middle school. Currently in California, the sixth grade curriculum focuses on Earth science, the seventh grade curriculum focuses on life science, and eighth grade curriculum focuses on physical science. A panel of experts in the state recommended an integrated approach where students in each grade would study some of each discipline.

To reiterate the point: When a state chooses to adopt NGSS, THE STATE IS MAKING A CHOICE. NO ONE IS MAKING THE STATE DO ANYTHING.

Furthermore, when the state chooses to adopt NGSS, there are many other choices that must be made. One of these is to choose how courses will be structured in middle school. But there are other choices as well about assessments, professional development, and curriculum materials.

Choosing NGSS is just the first step in a process that can lead better instruction for all students.

So I congratulate California for choosing to adopt NGSS, and I am happy for the students in California because regardless of whether they are taught only one science discipline each year of middle school or a blend of several disciplines each year, they will now have the opportunity to study science more deeply with these standards.

I encourage other states to make the same choice for the benefit of their children.